Kidnapping the Austrians

Over the past year, I’ve been in a position where almost all my close friends live far away.  For the most part, this absolutely sucks.  I’m the type of person that doesn’t need to be surrounded by people all the time.  Give me a few solid souls to lean on and I am set.  It’s been incredibly difficult without the people I love most in the world by my side.  No amount of reading and Netflix can compensate for deep talks and belly laughter.

The one good thing, though, is that it makes the time I have with my dear ones so much more precious.

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Right to left: Anna, Emma, Anna-Laura, and me. Taken while waiting for the hometown parade to start.

This past weekend, I was able to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world, who happen to live in Austria.  We met at Camp Shamineau, where I spent the past three summers working, but our friendship has gone far beyond camp life.  When I studied abroad in Europe, I visited their home in the Alps.  This weekend, I brought them to see my home.

I don’t really know what to say about my time with the Austrians.  I dragged them through several charming small towns, to a local parade, a waterfall, and (of course) Target.  We laid around, ate good food, and soaked in each other’s company.

Being around people you care about brings out the best in you.

During the past few months at home, certain pieces of myself have gone dormant.  I’ve forgotten what a joy it is to serve others, to put their needs before my own, and what it feels like to be surrounded by my Christian brothers and sisters.  My faith does best when I am on my own, independent of my parents, and although this summer hasn’t been BAD, it hasn’t been productive.  I’ve lost sight of what it means to GROW in my faith.  I’ve settled for getting by.

The two days spent with my Austrian friends reminded me of these things.  Just by being in their presence, listening to them talk, I felt God’s Spirit flare up in my heart.

Anna and I by the waterfall near where I live
Anna and I by the waterfall near where I live

I felt a desire to grow, to serve, to love.  I wanted to spend time investing in my faith instead of hobbies and activities.

Saying goodbye to Anna, Emma, and Anna-Laura today was incredibly sad.  They’re some of the dearest people in my heart and, since we live on other sides of the world, I don’t know when I’m going to see them next.  But being with them helped remind me of so many things that I had let slip by, giving me badly needed encouragement regarding my future plans.  I am so thankful for that.

However, I do know that these girls and I are friends for life.  I never imagined I would come to be tied so deeply to a bunch of people from Austria–of all places, why there?  I cling to the knowledge that we will meet again.  Friends like them don’t come along every day–and when they do, they stick.  I don’t know how much time will pass between today and our next meeting, but I earnestly look forward to it.

This weekend was, by far, the highlight of my summer thus far.

You know you’ve been at camp too long when…

You feel like a rebel for wearing shoes.

No matter how many times you wash it, your raincoat permanently smells like the Brule.

Your first urge while walking into church is to break out dancing and wonder why no one else is.

You believe deep down that a lake shower is equivalent to a real shower.

You shout “TTO” everywhere you go and people stare at you like you’re some kind of weirdo.

You’ve convinced so many campers that cooties are real that you half believe in them yourself.

You can quote the all the Rejected Sports videos line by line.

You start chanting “USA” everywhere you go.

On Wednesdays, you cook all your food over a fire.

You find yourself putting random Bible verses to songs and singing them to everyone you see on the street and are confused why they don’t give you cabin points.

You feel sick at the smell of standard shaving cream from Day Camp water day.

You start listening to the “Church Clap” for fun.

You’re shocked when you see people in two-piece swimsuits that aren’t modest tankinis.

You’re convinced that the dirt layer on your feet is a tan.

You start jumping into the nearest body of water with your clothes on purely out of habit.

“Can we blow that up?” is a serious question.

You ask small children in public where their counselor is.

You start wearing your staff shirt every Sunday and Friday purely out of habit.

Every time you make a decision, you ask yourself, “Is this something that Jeff would fire me for?”

You have legitimate nightmares about having to choose between canoeing down the Brule or running Day Camp.

You have more merchandise from your camp than from your college.

You get campsick instead of homesick.

(Most of these are from fellow staff members, a couple are original.)

Friday Favorites

I’ve been trying to get myself back in the blogging habit since camp is over… what better way than with another edition of Friday Favorites?

So… the Friday Favorites are…

1. PR 6

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During the last week of camp, there were no churches in need of Shamineau Day Camp.  What were two Day Camp directors to do?  Easy.  Become counsellors!  It was like returning to my roots.  I was reminded how much I love counseling, but at the same time, why I don’t do it anymore.  It’s exhausting!  But oh, so rewarding.  We had ten campers.  They were wonderful–silly, creative, and fun, and loved learning more about God.  I had some of the best one-on-ones that I’ve ever had.  And, at the end, we won Cabin of the Week!

2. Juliet Marillier

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I first discovered Marillier’s greatness in her Young Adult novel, Wildwood Dancing.  I loved it so much I read it about five times in a row.  Since then, she’s become one of my favorite fantasy writers.  It’s to the point where I will read anything she writes.  (Yes, that includes grocery lists.)  Her novels usually feature a smart, independent heroine with deep connections to family who gets swept away on some kind of adventure.  They’re heavily steeped in folklore, which I adore.

In the past week, I’ve read two of her novels–the final two of her Sevenwaters series.  They were so good I read them in a day each, staying up well past midnight to read the final chapters.  Best feeling in the world right there.

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3. This Song

After my early summer Cloud Cult obsession faded, it was replaced by a deep love for Rend Collective.  They’re a folksy Christian band with a passion for authentic, joyful worship.  Normally, I’m not one to listen to Christian music, but I make an exception here.  They capture the heart of what it means to worship–the rawness, the joy of coming before God.  They recorded their first album around a campfire, which is pretty awesome.  And they’re Irish!

And… that’s all for today!  Stay tuned for more posts!  I’m hoping to be writing more frequently now that I actually have consistent computer access.

Goodbye, Shamineau

Saying goodbye to places that shaped you into who you are is hard.

But, ultimately, a place is just a place.  And you can always go back and visit.  No, things won’t be the same.  The faces will be different.  People may no longer know your name.  But that’s okay.  In years to come, retrace the old routes and watch the ghosts of the best summers of your life play out.  People get thrown in the lake, cups are popped in the dining hall, and kids continue to draw closer to Jesus.

The past three years, being on staff at Camp Shamineau has completely altered who I am.  I went in year one as a counselor, scared to death, no idea what I was doing, and didn’t know a soul.  Summer after summer, God taught me lessons of His imesurable love, strength, and faithfulness.  I entered a shy, quiet girl who had her identity in a narrow little box.  And now I leave a confident leader, ready to go out into the world and serve God with my life.

Shamineau, you will always have a place in my heart.  The memories I have at camp are ones I will carry dearly for the rest of my life.  The friendships I’ve forged on staff are some of the most meaningful I have ever known.  My fellow staff members have always accepted me as I am, flaws and oddities in all, and I’m forever grateful.  What a joy it is to serve the Lord alongside such passionate, loving people!  What an honor to call them my brothers and sisters!  What a blessing to know that, even though our paths may not cross again, we will be united again with Christ in just a short time.

Shaminknights, if you’re reading this…  Thank you.  Thank you for your service.  Thank you for your love.  Thank you for your passion.  Thank you for continually inspiring me to seek Christ first.  I love you all so dearly.  You are incredible, and I cannot wait to see where God takes you!

Every summer, God does something significant in my life.  This year was no exception.  He surprised me constantly–closing doors I thought were wide open–and giving me incredible peace throughout the process.  I learned that, no matter what, He is more than enough to sustain all my needs.  In addition, I grew into a leader.  I learned how to manage people, how to make things happen when need be, and how to do so while leaning on God.  I learned not to drive suburbans, that craft rooms stress me out, and that it is possible to become Queen of bouncy castles.  I learned that leaders are often isolated, and that people often don’t notice all that they accomplish.  And God showed me that the only recognition I needed was from Him.

I’ll conclude with the theme verse of the summer, which is one I have been meditating on these past three months.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

As much as I’d like to return, God has made it pretty clear to me that my time at Shamineau has come to an end.  There will be no next summer.  And, although it breaks my heart to say goodbye, I’m ready for what is next.  God used these summers to prepare me for greater things.  As I return to my final year of college, I eagerly await the plans He has in store for me.  So, with my eyes fixed on Him, it’s time to run that race.

Not the most elegant of pictures, but taken my last night at camp.
Not the most elegant of pictures, but taken my last night at camp.  And, oh, how I’ve always loved those Shamineau sunsets!

So there you go

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting a lot about what God has done in my life over the past year.  It was an incredibly challenging time–I was pushed and stretched in just about every area of my life.

But not many people know about it.

You see, I tend to keep things pretty close to the chest.  I don’t tend to open up to people until they make an effort.  In a way, you have to work to get the Amelia beneath the surface.  It’s not that I’m not friendly–that’s definitely a word I’d use to describe myself.  I’m friendly, cheery, positive, optimistic, the list could go on.  But when people ask, “How was London?  How was your year at school?”  I tell them that it was fantastic.  It’s not a lie–while abroad, I went and did all the crazy things I’ve dreamed of doing my whole life.  But it was challenging.  It was dark.  It was lonely.  For weeks at a time, I’d feel depressed because of the spiritual weight associated with where I lived.  There were times when all I wanted to do was go home.  I missed my friends, I missed my campus ministry.  My friends at home were too busy to Skype me.  I felt like they didn’t care.  When I finally got home, I hoped things, after a brief transition, would fall back into place and return to normal.  And they didn’t.  Nothing was the same.  My friends moved on without me.  Relationships that had once been deep were suddenly shallow.  People I had leaned on were suddenly unavailable.  Almost all semester, I felt like I had no one I could talk to who both understood where I was at and cared enough to reach out.  I was constantly dissatisfied with almost everything around me.  I was unhappy.  I was so eager to get out that, the second my final papers were submitted, I packed up and bolted home.

The whole year, all I wanted to do was do something practical for God.  I wanted to use my hands, I wanted to get down to business, I wanted to plunge into ministry.  I wanted to pour into others.  God has given me some incredible gifts, and I wanted to use them to encourage my brothers and sisters.  I tried and tried and tried in London to get my foot in the door of some kind of ministry or church.  God shut all the doors in my face.  When I got home, again, I tried and tried to do something for the Kingdom.  I lead a Bible study.  I tried stepping back into prayer ministry.  I sought for people to pour into.  But, again, God had other plans.  He told me to be still.  He told me to wait.

So there I sat, exhausted and frustrated, waiting on God.

Sitting and waiting is hard.  But through it all, God showed me incredible things.  I learned about the depth of His faithfulness.  I was alone in Europe, disconnected from any kind of spiritual body, and every single day, when I opened my Bible, God was there.  It says in Lamentations that God’s faithfulness is new every morning–it’s so true.  No matter how dark it got, He continued to shine His light into my life.  He continued to wrap His arms around me, He continued to speak comfort and whisper beautiful promises into my ears.  He protected me from the darkness and gave me hope.  Over the past year, I have learned that God is enough.  Community is important, yes, but when it comes down to it, God is the ultimate sustainer.  His faithfulness is incredible.

After all this, God lead me back to Camp Shamineau, one of my favorite places in the world.  Today was the last day of staff training.  I’m on Program staff this year, and have had the honor of helping pour into the staff as we have trained them for a summer of ministry.  This morning, we had a chapel service where we worshipped and took communion.  While I partook of the elements, I reflected on all God has done.  I thought about the darkness, about the confusion, the loneliness, the frustration. We sang the song “Cornerstone” and in the line about Jesus being our anchor in times of darkness, I just about lost it.  Because, even though I had just gone through one of the toughest years I’ve ever had spiritually, God was still good.  He still loved me enough to use me.  As we sang, I looked around at all the exceptional people around me–my fellow Program staff, the counselors, SMT’s, and support staff.  I realized that, after such a trying year, God had finally brought me to a place where I could do everything I longed to do.  I could pour into others, pray for them, encourage them, step up in leadership, and help spread the Gospel.  Here I was, doing something practical for the Kingdom at last.   And I thanked God.  I praised Him.  For, even though I fail daily, He is so incredibly good.

So there you go.  For more on my spiritual journey during my time in London, stop by my old travel blog!

The Brule

On Sunday morning, I blissfully asleep in my bed at camp.  Then, suddenly…

“GET OUT OF BED!  PACK FOR TWO DAYS ON THE RIVER AND ONE DAY AT THE CABIN.  YOU HAVE TEN MINUTES.”

The lights were on, my boss was out the door, and my roommate, Alex, and I were out of bed without hesitation.  Still half asleep, we blindly shoved clothes into our bags.  In no time, we were running from Thorwall to the parking lot and jumping into the fifteen passenger van.  Our fellow program staff members were just as bleary-eyed and sleepy.

Three and a half hours later, we arrived at our destination in northern Wisconsin.  After dumping all our bags at the campsite, we headed to the canoe rental place.

What were we doing in Wisconsin?  Answer: The Brule.

Basically, we were placed in canoes with our summer partners and, over the course of two days, paddled 45 miles.  We put in eight hours of endless winding turns the first day, followed by five and a half hours of crazy rapids the second.  Our bosses only gave us a bag of rice to eat, but we smuggled a handful of Clif Bars.

By the end of the trip, we had all fallen in at some point.  We were jostled against rocks and slammed into trees.  Kristine got pinned under a log that had fallen across the river and didn’t appear for a while.  She was really freaked out after that.  At one point, my partner (Eva) and my canoe was stuck between some rocks and, for five seconds, was convinced that the paracord rope attaching my paddle to the boat was wrapped around my ankle.  The current pushed me in front of the boat and I thought I was a goner.  But, thankfully, I was free.  After that, I was so shaken up I could barely stand to get the canoe out.  It took six of us to get it free.

The moment when we rounded the bend to see Lake Superior was a beautiful sight.  Suddenly, the 45 miles of wear and tear fell away and we paddled with renewed vigor.  We strode into the lake in the sunlight and, oh my goodness, it was beautiful.

To recover from our journey, we spent a day at our boss’s cabin.  It was a wonderful time of relaxation.  We played games, watched movies, went on pontoon rides, made a puzzle, and went in the sauna.

Now, the counselors are here and training is finally swinging into gear.  Our days are filled with getting to know people, planning, and making sure things are going as they should.  It’s strange being on the programming end of things, but so far, I’m loving it.

Here’s the Brule! Taken from: https://birkhola.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/ee238-dsc_0016.jpg

Friday Favorites VI

This song:

Yes, the Cloud Cult trend continues.  I just can’t get enough of their acoustic album.

These people:

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Meet the 2014 Shamineau Program staff!  I’m so thankful for this group of people.  It’s such an honor to be part of such a fantastic group of young men and women.  We spent last night on the island camp owns and the sunset was absolutely stunning!  (Not everyone was present for this, which was sad.)  (Photo courtesy of my friend, Amy.)

This Meme:

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This Video:

Seriously.  One of my absolute favorite things on YouTube.